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Suzuki RG500 Gallery

During the first half of the Seventies Suzuki's efforts in the 500cc class had been focused on machines utilising a twin cylinder two stroke engine developed from the road going T500 powerplant. In its final, watercooled form, the powerplant was reputed to develop in the region of 80bhp, however, although there were marketing benefits in campaigning a machine displaying a direct relationship to a road going model, it was becoming apparent that a specialist Grand Prix design would be required if Suzuki were to achieve success in the "blue ribbon" class at international level.

During 1974 the four cylinder works XR14 made its debut. The new new machine featured a square four, liquid cooled two stroke engine with disc valve induction. An interesting feature of the design was the use of an independent crankshaft for each cylinder, which were themselves independent units. Breathing through four 34mm Mikuni carburettors and equipped with a six speed gearbox the compact unit was housed in a steel frame. The first two seasons showed considerable promise and in 1976, using an engine that had moved from the original 56mm x 50.5mm bore and stroke to square 54mm x 54mm dimensions, Barry Sheene took five wins in the ten round World Championship winning it by a considerable margin.

1976 was also notable for the introduction of "over the counter" RG500 which would have a similar impact at all levels of 500cc class racing to that which the TZ series twins from Yamaha had in the 250cc and 350cc classes, rejuvenating the class at club and national level and offering privateers a competitive mount at international level.

Derived from the early works machines the "production" example retained the 56mm x 50.5mm engine dimensions. Interestingly, it employed the Suzuki "posi - lube" oil injection system with the oil being carried in the frame, although in practise virtually all riders discarded the oil pump and reverted to pre-mix.

Bike Image Description
Suzuki RG500 Mk1
Suzuki RG 500 This attractive example has recently been restored. The machine was stripped and the frame was powder coated with the body work being finished in Life helmet colours. It is fitted with alloy wheels and the exhaust system is equipped with "silencers".
Suzuki RG500 Mk2
Suzuki RG500 The Mk II, introduced for the 1977 season, incorporated detail changes, the most obvious being the more upright shock absorber mounting employed on the new model. Suzuki also followed the lead of the racers who had ridden the MK I variant and who had routinely dispensed with that models oil injection system, in deleting the system. The consequent switch to pre-mix lubrication on the Mk II which resulted in blanked off disc valve covers gracing the Mk II's crankcases and the exhaust system adopted integral silencers. The rest of the machine was little changed from the previous season, it retained the wire spoked wheels, quadruple 34mm Mikuni carburettors and four crankshafts of the Mk1 which delivered a power output reputedly of 103 bhp.
Sparton-Suzuki 500
Sparton Suzuki 500

Sparton frames were manufactured by Barry Hart together with other racing related accessories. Early versions were built to house Yamaha 125cc twins and he was also responsible for triples 350 and 500cc triples built using TZ top ends. However, Sparton are probably best known for their RG500 powered machines, one of which would find fame as the "Silver Dream Racer" built for the film featuring David Essex in 1979. Of more significance competitively was the one two finish achieved by a pair of Sparton machines at the North West 200 in 1976.

The RG500 over the counter racer was introduced for the 1976 season,essentially replicating the works four cylinder machines first campaigned by Suzuki in the 1974 season. The new machine was responsible for rejuvenating the 500cc class at all levels, which until its introduction had struggled for entries due to the disparity between the works machines and those available to privateers. Equipped with a disc valve, two stroke engine which featured independent cranks, barrels and heads and a six speed gearbox it offered privateers a power output of approximately 103bhp in it's original over square configuration, enabling them to maintain a pace that at times matched the factory bikes. It was felt by some, though, that the standard steel frame could be improved upon, providing an opportunity for specialist manufacturers such as Sparton with their ability to produce fine handling frames.

1976 Suzuki RG500 Mk1
1976 Suzuki RG500 Mk1

The 1976 Suzuki RG500 Mk 1 was derived from the XR14 works machine that took Barry Sheene to two consecutive World Championships in 1976 and 1977. The new machine featured a "square" four, two stroke engine with 56 x 50.5mm dimensions equipped with disc valves fed by four 34mm magnesium Mikuni carburettors. The power unit was equipped with a six speed gearbox and "stinger" expansion chambers and housed in a tubular steel frame which was designed to carry the engine oil, although the vast majority of machines ran with a petrol/oil mixture following the removal of the oil pump. Laid down rear shock absorbers controlled the rear end, the front being fitted with 35mm forks. Suzuki brake callipers dealt with the braking and alloy rims were fitted front and rear.

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Suzuki RG500 Suzuki RG500
  • Engine - 498cc, square-four, two-stroke
  • Top Speed - 133mph
  • Power - 95bhp
  • Launched - 1985-1989
  • Back in 1985 the RG500 was the closest thing to a GP500 bike. Ground-breaking at the time.

    1985 Suzuki RG500 Gamma 1985 Suzuki RG500 Gamma  
    1986 Suzuki RG500G 1986 Suzuki RG500G The widowmaker. A powerband like an on-off switch and square tyres as standard. Didn't do Kevin Schwantz any harm in race trim. In 1985, the RG500 was a super-light, evilly-powered two-stroke which would kill you as soon as look at you at least that is what it was to the uninitiated.
    The Gamma, as it's known, has a square-four, 499cc motor, and a power-to-weight ratio that would shock some 600s today (93bhp, 154kg). It was borne from Suzuki's success on the track and certainly belonged there the technology it employed (including rotary valves) is still being used. It bit the dust a mere handful of years after inception as emissions laws became stricter and demand slumped. Shame.
    1987 Suzuki RG500 1987 Suzuki RG500

    As the 1980s departed, so did Suzuki's RG500 GP replica. Suzuki had been producing square four two-strokes for 20 years before they launched the road-going GP replica RG500 in 1985. For a bike available to Joe Public, the term race replica had arguably never been closer to the truth. Sheene, Lucchinelli, Uncini and the rest had won GPs on something very similar.

    The RG was eagerly awaited and was a must-have in 1985-86. Rumoured to be as fast as the pukka racer of only a few seasons before, the 95bhp reality was a slight disappointment. Excitement soon faded as punters realised that the new bread of four-stroke fours were generally better. Ironically, Suzuki's own GSX-R750, announced earlier in 1985, was the bike that made the RG redundant.

    1987 Suzuki RG500 1987 Suzuki RG500  Gamma  
    1987 Suzuki RG500 Gamma Walter Wolf Suzuki RG500 Gamma Walter Wolf  
    1988 Suzuki RG500 Gamma Suzuki RG500 Gamma  
    1989 Suzuki RG500 1989 Suzuki RG500  

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